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Crime and Punishment

Summary

Part I: Chapters II–IV

Summary Part I: Chapters II–IV

The character of Raskolnikov’s mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, comes through clearly in her letter. She is devoted to her son, even ready to condone her daughter’s self-sacrifice for his benefit. Her letter to him serves the important role of introducing the subplot of Dunya’s engagement. The letter also discusses and introduces Dunya’s former employer, Svidrigailov, who becomes important to the development of the plot, and his recently deceased wife, Marfa Petrovna. Dostoevsky skillfully uses Pulcheria’s letter as a device to provide these bits of context and background, so that when Raskolnikov first talks to his mother, sister, and Luzhin, we have a deeper sense of the meaning of the interaction than we would have if the characters had not already been described.